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Computer scientist

Computer scientist

The work of computer scientist and computer engineers do overlap in certain areas but computer science is a discrete profession and one that attracts some of the world’s brightest minds.

Alternative job titles for this role

  • Computer engineer
  • Software scientist
  • Software engineer
  • Computing and information scientists

Introduction

Computer science is the study of how data and instructions are processed, stored, communicated by computing devices. It involves designing software and addressing fundamental scientific questions about the nature of computation but also involves many aspects of hardware and the architecture of large computer systems. In a nutshell, computer scientists are scientists and mathematicians who develop new ways to process, interpret, store, communicate, and secure data. They also create the brains in our smartphones, they keep airplanes from falling out of the sky, they help surgeons do a better job and automate manufacturing, to name but a few.

What the job involves

  • Think about and conceptualise computational and maths-related problems and challenges
  • Develop new products or solve practical computing problems
  • Research involving experimentation and modelling
  • Work as part of a research team with programmers, IT professionals, and mechanical, electrical or software engineers to solve problems and create new products
  • Study, experiment and investigate technological fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics or virtual reality
  • Seek to improve the performance of existing computer systems and software
  • Develop new hardware or computing techniques and materials

How your career can develop

Graduate computer scientists can work across a vast array of career fields with plenty of scope for specialisation and career advancement. Postgraduate study to PhD level is common in the profession, especially in academic research.

Why computer science matters

Computer science students are most likely to be snapped up by employers after graduation, and also to earn more, the Higher Education Authority’s annual survey of graduate prospects shows. Some 77 per cent of computer science graduates with an honours bachelor (level 8) degree last year were in employment nine months after graduation.

Skills

  • Excellent maths skills
  • Excellent computer and technology knowledge and skills
  • Ability to analyse problems and trace them to their core causes
  • A systematic approach to work and problem solving
  • Stickler for accuracy
  • Strong ability to anticipate and diagnose problems
  • A born organiser – able to organise and classify large amounts of information

Typical employers

  • Research foundations
  • Large computer and software companies
  • Social media companies
  • Government
  • Large manufacturers
  • Financial service providers

Typical salary

  • Graduate/Starting €30,000
  • Senior/Potential €65,000+

Typical qualifications

A computer science or computer science and information technology degree is the norm. Gateway degrees also include Electronic Engineering, Software Engineering, Physics and Mathematics.

Further information

Irish Computer Society: www.ics.ie

Irish Software Research Centre: www.lero.ie

Engineers Ireland: www.engineersireland.ie

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – Irish branch: http://ieee-ukandireland.org/

Artificial Intelligence Association of Ireland: http://4c110.ucc.ie/aiai/

Video from MIT in the US – What do computer scientists do? http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-00-introduction-to-computer-science-and-programming-fall-2008/video-lectures/lecture-24/